A Devilishly Clever Trick

by Rigby Taylor

A beam of late afternoon sunlight brought the somewhat shabby furniture to life, gilding all it touched, including two naked young men sprawled over the ancient divan, soft smiles betraying recent intimacy. The somewhat brutish face of a solid, hirsute fellow endowed with a permanent tan, was softened by an elegantly sculpted black beard, arched eyebrows and apparently permanently smiling lips. His more classically proportioned lover sported hairless limbs and torso, a longish head, sardonic lips, disconcerting green eyes, and floppy light brown hair.

A car door slammed.

'Dad's home.'

By the time the tall, lean, middle-aged, slightly worried yet still handsome man whose limbs seemed too long, entered the room, the young men, now in jeans and T-shirts, were seated at a desk, consulting large books.

The man nodded politely at the beard, folded himself onto the still warm divan and asked hopefully, 'Has your mother gone out, Loki?'


'How was she dressed?'

'To the nines.'

'Did he come and pick her up?'

'Yes, Dad. But before you ask, I didn't get a look at him. He drives a Renault Wagon; that's all I know. Why don't you tell her you want to meet him?'

'And admit I'm being cuckolded? I have some pride.'

'Not enough to confront her and demand a look.'

'I know you're right, but I'm a wimp.' With an impotent sigh, the father turned to the beard. 'What do you think, Sylvan? Should I confront my wife?'

'I've no idea, Mr. Timm, but….'

'Sylvan, is it really so difficult to call me Vic?'

'No… it's just… I just feel as if it's lacking respect.'

'It isn't. What were you going to say?'

'Just that my parents divorced and dumped me on my uncle when I was ten. So what married people do is a mystery to me.'

'It's a mystery to most of them too.' Vic unfolded himself and stretched. 'What're you reading?'

'I'm doing research for an essay on the importance of political stability in ensuring ecological sustainability.'

'Rather you than me. What about you, Loki?'

'Trying to make sense of this dissertation on the paradoxical symbiosis of good and evil as personified by their supernatural representatives in folk law.'

'Commiserations.' Vic sighed, turned as if to go, then asked, 'Are you celebrating the raising of the dead tonight?'

'Yeah, we're going to a Halloween costume party.'

'What as?'

'Sylvan's representing Pan and the natural world by dressing as a Satyr, and I'm going as Christianity's version of Pan—a Devil.'

'Ha! Type casting!'

'Touché. But also because he is an hairy man and I am an smooth man, as Jacob explained to Rebekah'

'Very amusing, Loki. I suppose there'll be girls at this event?'

'Everything's possible.'

'I can't help worrying you'll be seduced by some clever female and get trapped into marriage before you've lived.'

'No worries about that, Dad. Sylvan will prevent my slide into iniquitous fornication.'

The father nodded. 'I'm pleased you both take care of each other. I realise sexual abstinence is very difficult at your age, but one day you'll find a nice young woman to marry.'

'Or if I'm desperate, a nice young man.'

'Oh no. No, no, no. Please don't make jokes. Homosexuality is such a sad condition.'

'You make it sound like a disease, Mr… I mean Vic.'

'Well, Sylvan, it is so mentally stressful for a man to be sexually incomplete, it feels like an illness. What a dreadful life for those poor fellows, having to seek out increasingly perverse ways to satisfy sexual urges to replace genuine love and affection. Ending life alone and miserable.' He shook his head in genuine commiseration. 'Every man needs the loving companionship of a good woman.'

'Like you and Mum?'

'Yes… well… we're going through a difficult patch at the moment, but…'

'The moment is lasting a very long time. '

'You're very cruel, Loki.'

'You've got to be cruel to be kind, as your mother loves to chant when she's being particularly vindictive. I'm grandma's grandson, Dad. But tell me, how did you learn so much about queers?'

'I have to know about such things because, as Lay Secretary for the Diocese, I'm responsible for PR…'

'Propaganda rubbish!'

Vic frowned. Irritated. 'The Bishop himself decided those were the compassionate words to use in our information leaflets, and as I am in his employ, it is my bounden duty to support him.'

'If you want to keep your job.'

'No, no. If you think about it, it makes sense. Men lying with men as with women is unnatural and therefore can not lead to happiness. The Bishop is merely throwing his support behind proposed law changes regarding religious freedom, to redress the balance in our schools and enterprises, by cleansing and purifying sacred ground of perversion.'

'You mean freedom for religions to discriminate, to get rid of gay students and teachers and everyone else he suspects of not being a true blue heterosexual?'

'More or less.'

'Where angels fear to tread,' Sylvan whispered softly.

'What was that, Sylvan?'

'You are a compassionate man, Vic, but you risk hurting a great many people.'

'For the sake of their eternal souls.'

'Speaking of souls, Dad,' Loki interrupted, 'What are you doing to celebrate their resurrection?'

'All Hallows Eve,' Vic whispered reverently. 'There's a special service at the Cathedral, to be taken by the Bishop himself. But I can't go without your mother. I guess I'll stay home and light a candle to my ancestors.'

'Come to the party with us,' Loki grinned.

Sylvan shot him a confused look.

'That would hardly be suitable in my position, and I've no costume.' Vic's frown deepened. 'And there will be alcohol and other drugs and…' he shook his head. 'You young people…'

'No there won't. It's a smoke and drug free evening. Only fine upstanding citizens like us, so you won't be tempted.'

Vic stared into his son's green eyes for several long seconds, then grinned. 'I've just remembered! I have a costume! When I was your age, before I met your mother, I went to a Halloween dance as a skeleton. I've still got it in a closet in the spare room. I'll go and get it.'

'Why the fuck did you invite your father?'

'Haven't you been listening? We are at war again! What do you think will be the result of the law changes the Bishop is promoting and Dad will persuasively insinuate into the minds of all who listen? He is an infernally brilliant propagandist.'

'They'll be thrilled at no longer having to conceal their homophobia.'

'Right. And what about the legions of gays, and the rest of the alphabet soup of alternative sexualities?'

'They'll be upset.'

'Very! And suicides and self harm will rise again, along with homelessness and gay bashings… we'll be back in the nineteen sixties, unless this evil man is stopped.'

'Your father?'

'No, Dad's just a pawn. The Bishop. And tonight's the best chance we have to stop his propaganda.'


'By stopping Dad.'

'He seems pretty well convinced.'

'My grandmother didn't name me after Loki, the Teutonic Devil for nothing. You saw how easily I got him to come to the party.'

'I'm impressed.'

'And so you should be. Watch and learn, oh son of nature. Two thousand years of observing Christian nastiness and cunning has taught me a thing or two.' Loki laughed unpleasantly. 'A skeleton… he's already a bundle of bones and would probably look even more convincing naked.'

After a light meal, Vic tried on the Lycra skeleton suit. It felt like a second skin; alarmingly tight and, in the bedroom mirror, disconcertingly revealing, so he peeled it off and put his vest and underpants on underneath.

Meanwhile in the laundry, Sylvan was applying a generous coat of red body paint to Loki's feet, legs, bum and pubes. A lightweight 'tail' glued just above the buttock cleavage, and a pair of papier mâché horns stuck to his forehead, transformed the young man into a very convincing young devil.

Sylvan's metamorphosis required even less work. Already blessed with brown hairy thighs and butt, he needed only a pair of horns similar to Loki's, poking through his thick black hair, a cute little tail glued to the base of his spine, and brown socks split and painted to suggest cloven hoofs.

Vic's continuing concern about his appearance was justified—his bulky undergarments looked ridiculous. Overriding his protestations, the young men stripped him, removed the offending articles, eased him once more into his costume, then all three paraded in front of the large bedroom mirror.

Vic stared, apparently stunned at their reflections. 'I'm clothed and look rude, but you're both naked and don't!'

'What do we look?'

'You look… you look menacing. And Sylvan looks alarmingly wild and savage.'

'Good, that's the effect we want; naked mythical creatures who stalked forest and plain, to tempt, seduce and, in the satyr's case, to fertilise. By the way, you don't look rude; the painted pelvic bone obscures details.'

Yeah, Vic,' Sylvan added. 'You look sexy.'

'Flattery will get you everywhere, Sylvan. But… Why are Loki's legs and loins red but yours aren't?'

'Because, Dad, as you well know, Christians declared sex and nudity to be a sin, so when recasting pagan Pan and his minions as biblical Devils, they painted their loins red for danger, to warn all good people they'd be cast into hell if they exposed them or fornicated.'

'An interesting, but apocryphal theory. And what will the guests think about you two prancing around in the altogether?'

'Nothing bad, I guarantee. We're all members of a club that has monthly retro parties like the ones our grandparents are always bending our ears about. No drinking or smoking, party games, dancing, and impromptu concerts when everyone performs a song or dance, recites a poem or tells a joke. The food's also retro. It's good, clean fun. Everyone laughs a lot, and we go home feeling better and healthier.'

'Where is it?'

'In the suburbs. A large old house owned by Melvyn; a businessman about your age.'

'How many others?'

'Usually between twenty and thirty.'

'And you're certain the owner of the house, Melvyn, won't take offence at your… and my…?'

'I've already said as much. Stop fussing. Come on, we'll take your car. Sylvan can drive as he knows the way.'

What Loki had failed to mention was that when at home, Melvyn transformed into Melanine—a tall yet graceful and stylish lady with a penchant for intelligent, respectable men of a similar age.

Sylvan was lucky to find a parking spot on the street directly in front of the house, so a quick dash brought them to the front door where Melanine, draped in elegant swathes of royal purple, a laurel wreath encircling immaculately coiffed hair, was waiting to greet them.

When Vic asked after Melvyn, she explained that he was away on business, so she was playing hostess. Having admired their costumes—or lack thereof, and enchanted by Vic's pleasant voice, gentle mien and nervous shyness, she took his arm and led them into a spacious, tastefully furnished room.

Sipping a freshly made fruit drink, and visibly aroused by Melanine's hand on his arm, Vic gazed around in apprehensive delight at avenging angels, warty witches, classical heroes, mad monks, naughty nuns and even a metallic robot. He felt obscurely proud that Loki and Sylvan were greeted like old friends, offered drinks, and made much of. What surprised him was the level of noise. No sharp voices or strident laughter; just a low, pleasant hum of conversation. There seemed to be equal numbers of males and females, but it was difficult to tell with some of the costumes. Their ages were not obvious but didn't seem important. To his relief there were no children, no vamping females thrusting their cleavages, and no doting ancients. Everyone seemed healthy, fresh, and smiling, while listening, chatting and nodding.

Half an hour later, when catch-up conversations were complete, and Melanine had discovered all she needed to know about Vic without revealing much of herself, a tinkling bell announced the games. For the next hour they played Charades, Postman's Knock, Spin the Bottle, Chinese Whispers, Consequences…. And Vic had more fun than he could ever remember having at a party.

Melanine too had enjoyed herself, delighted that her first impressions of Vic were proving accurate.

Before being allowed to partake of supper, each guest had to step onto the tiny stage, display their costume and behave in what they imagined was natural for their character. The witch cackled and cast spells, heroes waved swords, the skeleton danced awkwardly, someone with a realistically slashed throat, gurgled and expired. Loki capered and thrust a carving fork at everyone, hissing and laughing cruelly. All were applauded generously, but Sylvan triggered the most applause by prancing onto the stage proudly erect, and adopting a pose identical to the ancient Corinthian Statue of Silenus.

Being a warm and still evening, supper was served on the terrace; pavlova, cream puffs, sausage rolls… washed down with water, weak tea or cocoa.

'Have you been watching Dad, Sylvan?' Loki whispered.

'Yep. They've been holding hands, stroking arms, gazing dog-like into each other's soppy eyes. I had no idea Vic was like that. It's as if she's cast a spell on him'

'And now they're missing supper—even less like him.'

'Where are they?'

'Upstairs getting intimate, I imagine. They snuck away as we were all coming out here.'

'But he'll discover she's got balls.'

'And a big fat cock, according to rumour.'

'I wonder how he'll react, being such a homophobe.'

'Dad's association with Christians has made him proficient in intellectual and moral flexibility, so I wouldn't worry.'

After supper, CDs of old-time waltzes, foxtrots, veleta and the maxina had everyone dancing and changing partners when the tune changed. During the last dance, a smugly smiling Melanine was followed downstairs by a fatuously grinning, somewhat wrinkled skeleton. They joined in the dancing as if they'd been there the entire time.

After the last dance, the Wicked Witch thanked Melanine for another wonderful evening. There was an honest chorus of agreement, and two minutes later Vic, Loki, Sylvan and their hostess were alone.

Vic cleared his throat and announced solemnly, as if in a trance, 'Melanine invited me to stay the night, and I have accepted. Drive home carefully.'

Loki smiled his pleasure. 'Sure thing, Dad.' Turning to Melanine, 'Thanks for taking this wet blanket off my hands. See if you can also make him see sense about his life.'

Melanine's smile was innocence personified as she herded the young men out the door. 'Your father is a wonderful man, Loki, thank you so much for bringing him. Goodnight.'

'Ha! She couldn't wait to get rid of us. Do you think Vic's seen the light?'

'In what way?'

'Understood what went wrong with his marriage.'

'I suppose so. His trance-like state suggests it.'

'Judging from the state of his skeleton costume, I'd say he's seen more than the light, he's had an intimate view of what's under Melanine's gown, and liked what he saw.'

'And tonight he will be filled with the essence of Melvyn's manhood.'

'And, in the morning be a changed man.'

'We hope.'

'Mum's obviously not coming home, so we can stay here instead of slumming it in your miserable flat.'

'Suits me.'

After showering off paint and glue, followed by mutual exploration and sweet release, they slept like logs, awakening refreshed.

During breakfast, a car door slammed, the car sped away, and a minute later a bedraggled woman shuffled in, kicked off high heels, sank onto a chair, held her head in her hands and whispered, 'Shut up and get me a coffee.'

'What's the matter Mum? Had a rough night?'

She groaned. 'A fucking Halloween party. Too much to drink. My head's about to explode.' She stood groggily, swayed alarmingly, then slumped back down.'

'Get me some panadeine.'

'After downing two pills with strong black coffee, she staggered to the bathroom and showered.

Ten minutes later, another car door slammed and the car drove away. A minute later a cheerful, bouncy, middle-aged man in chinos and white shirt entered and sat on the seat his wife had recently vacated.

'You're looking chipper Dad.'

'I'm feeling chipper. Is your mother back?'

'Showering off a hangover. Don't talk too loudly, she's fragile.'

'Who's fragile?' Vic's wife snapped, returning and sitting opposite her husband. 'What're you looking so cheerful about?'

''It's a wonderful day. I feel on top of the world. Never been so happy. Just been for a walk in the park…' Vic sighed contentedly. 'What about you? You look as if you've been run over by a truck?'

'Fuck you, Vic.'

'Never again, wife of mine, I have something wonderful to announce. Last night I…'

'And I've got news for you, Vic Timm! I'm leaving you. Algie wants me to move in with him, so by tonight I'll be gone. My lawyers will sort it. What did you want to tell me?'

'Nothing, dear. Nothing.'

'You're not going to refuse a divorce, I hope.'

'Far from it. I'll sign the papers today if you like.'

'You're a weak, nothing, Vic Timm! I don't know how I lasted so long with such a spineless creature. Too frightened to take a risk or do anything your bloody Bishop wouldn't approve of.'

Vic smiled beatifically.

'What about me, Mum?'

You're a carbon copy! Another pathetic male. Can't even get a girlfriend. Get yourself a job and independence if you want my blessing.'

A car horn tooted. Without a backwards glance, soon-to-be-ex-missus Timm stalked out to join her Lothario.

The men left behind released large sighs, then roared with laughter.

'What were you going to tell us, Dad?'

'Four important things. One, that a devil tempted me last night and made me act so out of character I've fallen in love with a man-woman who is the most complete person I've ever met. Two, that I'm quitting my nasty job, and going to campaign against the law changes. Three, that I'm thrilled that you and Sylvan are lovers, and four, I'm not going to let anyone call me Vic ever again.'

'What will we call you?'


Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead